Ritual is a topic that’s been on my mind lately. As someone that has an impossibly hard time maintaining any semblance of a routine, I’ve struggled lately with finding a personal definition of ritual that lives outside of routine. In my mind, routine is something you do at the exact same time, in the exact same order, every.single.day. UGH. Now doesn’t that just suck the life right out of you thinking about it? It does for me!
But routine is necessary. We need structure in our lives to keep us tethered or else we begin to feel a little lost. Even if structure means waking up in the morning, scraping your tongue, brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, doing neti to clean your sinuses, sipping some tea and doing tarot, then drinking a big green smoothie before checking emails…okay, so I guess I do have some routine in my life! But routine to me still sounds and sometimes feels commonplace…and who really wants to live an ordinary life? This is where the idea of ritual fits in to elevate the daily ordinary to the extraordinary.
The way I see it, ritual is a way of imbuing meaning into each moment of your life. When you think about ritual, images of either stiff religious ceremonies or pagans dancing naked around a fire under the full moon come to mind. Whatever side of the spectrum of ritual you look at, the ceremony or celebration is always sacred and purposeful with a clear intention behind the sequence of events that take place. So what if we take that same purpose and intention and apply it to our daily routines? What if brushing your teeth and taking a shower becomes an act of gratitude instead of dull obligation? What if your yoga practice or your morning run was about honoring your body rather than chastising it in hopes of losing pound or two? Or what if each bite of food or sip of green juice was an intention-filled moment of union between nourishment and your body? This is an interesting way to look at nutrition isn’t it? Ponder that.
As we begin to transition into a new season, I encourage you to take some time to be still this week and linger over what is important in your life and how you can elevate your daily activities into more meaningful rituals instead of tiresome obligations. Because don’t they say, “How you do anything, is how you do everything.” For me, I try to approach each morning as my sacred space, as it seems to set the tone for the rest of my day. My yoga background and travels to India have deeply influenced what these personal rituals are. Of course your idea of sacred will be completely different than mine, but I thought I would share with you a few ways I like to create meaning in my daily life…
There’s a special space in my home where I keep a little altar and my favorite cozy rug, a space just for me. It’s quiet, undisturbed and the energy seems more peaceful here, more sattvic. I use this space specifically for my morning meditation and journaling. This little alter holds my most sacred possessions on it, from pictures of teachers and seashells from beach adventures, to shaman-blessed essential oils and powerful crystals. There’s also a little bell in the shape of Buddha that I ring each time I sit down to clear the energy and set the tone for a new practice that morning. I burn palo santo, light a white candle and sometimes place a few fresh flowers to give honor and give thanks to the things that are important in my life. In the Hindu tradition, this practice is called Puja and is commonly done as a daily ritual in homes and temples as a way to honor the divine. But the practice of puja doesn’t have to be around a deity or a religious ceremony. For me, the ritual of puja is about clearing old energy and creating a sacred space to let go of the external noise and look inward before the day gets started.
Meditation comes in many forms. Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is a movement meditation, so is tai chi, and so is running for all you runners out there. It’s all about where your intentions are and how you connect in with the moment to find stillness. For me, my daily meditation practice ranges from a seated meditation, to a full yoga practice, to journaling and sometimes even tarot. Some mornings it’s just five minutes of stillness before I run out the door, other times it’s a full primary series practice on my front porch. Whatever form it is, no matter how much time I have, I’ve come to learn that I have to do something to get grounded in the mornings before I start my day.
Union Over Breakfast
The practice of yoga, as it literally translates, means union. To yoke together your consciousness and the present moment. When it comes to breakfast, how often are we actually conscious and present when we eat? Often times, I think our minds are already out the door and in the car making lists of all things we need to do before we even finish our second bite. I shared with you last month Yogi Bhajan’s “Bhoj Kriya” which is a practice for eating consciously. I always come back to this practice when it’s time to eat, especially in the mornings when I finish meditation and want to carry this energy forward in my day. So after I make my morning breakfast, I take it outside with me. I find a comfortable seat in the sunshine and before I begin eating I take a few breaths to come back to the present moment, spoon in hand and high-vibing smoothie in a bowl in my lap. As I take my first sip or spoonful, I think about the intention or purpose I set at the beginning of my day doing puja and meditation. And as I drink deep and savor the flavors, I visual that intention infusing into every cell of my body. If my mind begins to wander mid-way to my list of to-do’s, I make sure to reign it back in and practice that union with the moment.